False breathalyzer readings are all too common

| Jul 21, 2020 | Alcohol-related Charges

We all like to let our hair down now and then, and for many people, that includes having a few drinks. Of course, it’s not a crime to drink alcohol if you’re over the legal age, but it is a crime to drive drunk, and that’s where the caveat enters the story.

Let’s say you attended a sporting event or a backyard cookout and had a few beers. You feel fine and know your limit. You even paired the drinks with some food and a glass of water, so you should be fine, and if an officer pulled you over, you are sure that your breathalyzer test would reveal that you are under the legal BAC limit of 0.8%. Well, not so fast.

Breathalyzer machines, the primary tool used by law enforcement when testing suspected drunk drivers, have come under heavy scrutiny. Even the New York Times published a piece condemning their use, citing that judges in Massachusetts and New Jersey threw out 30,000 breath tests between November 2018 and November 2019. The judges cited human error (often by the presiding officer) or lax government oversight. The New York Times also cited that states across the country are throwing out thousands of breathalyzer test results.

Poor standards

The lack of oversight has led to consistent miscalibrations of these small but intuitive devices, which has led to breath test results 40 times higher than the driver’s actual blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

The maintenance of breathalyzer machines is up to each police department, and many don’t know how to properly recalibrate them or have low standards regarding maintenance and storage. Some states have even gone as far as disabling security on the devices that protect accurate results. In Florida, judges declared their state’s breathalyzer machines as a “magic little black box,” which opens the door for anomalies and manipulation.

At least to some degree, most models of breathalyzers are easily manipulated by elements like mouthwash, breath mints, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, burping, burned plastics and adhesives, smoke and other chemicals.

Your DUI charge shouldn’t come down to the results of a faulty machine. If you believe your breathalyzer test came back inaccurate and them to a false DUI charge, consider seeking counsel to defend your position and fight the charge that’s dismantling your life.